Model Up was birthed when Calvin Hia and his teammates decided to make their final-year project at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) a reality.
“Our love for play brought us together and we had a mission to create a world where learning and playing co-existed,” said the 25-year-old.
The SUTD graduates started out joining several startup competitions towards the end of 2020, and participated in the Venture Building Programme hosted by Enterprise Singapore (ESG), a program that helped to kickstart their business journey.
Kiap your way through online learning and virtual meetings
The Covid-19 pandemic has definitely shifted trends in the workplace and schools. It did not only brought about the rise of remote working, but also home-based learning (HBL).
“It all started when I saw my little cousin struggling to hold up his Chinese textbook in front of the screen to show his Chinese tutor his work,” shared Calvin.
Noting the pain point, Calvin and his team started brainstorming for ideas on how they could assist teachers and students in conducting better virtual learning sessions.
This led to the conceptualisation of Kiap Kiap, which was initially formed as a simple and intuitive tool that would help children and teachers share their physical work during their virtual learning sessions.
The name “Kiap Kiap” was inspired by a Singaporean slang that provides relatability to the locals in a fun and cheeky way. “Kiap” also helps in explaining the concept of the product as it just requires a ‘kiap’ (click) to function.
“We wanted something that was easy and intuitive for users to use. As such, we’ve made it usable by just clipping (kiap) it onto devices,” explained Calvin.
He added that customer feedback played a pivotal role in helping the team innovate their Kiap Kiap designs to better suit the market needs. Interestingly, the Kiap Kiap is designed and individually 3D-printed by the team.
Evolving from a capstone project to a startup
The goal of Model Up was to create hybrid learning products that combine both physical play and virtual learning.
Meanwhile, The Kiap Family was founded recently in June 2021 and was the first product brand launch of Model Up. The initial plan was to assist teachers and students in dealing with virtual classes during these pandemic times.
The evolution of the brand began with Calvin helping his cousins and teachers in need. He figured this was the best way to give back to the teachers for all their hard work and sacrifices that they put in.
Once the team got the ball rolling, they noticed a huge need within the market as more early adopters and customers reflected upon their product.
The team further saw an opportunity to improve and innovate the product, and within time, the whole operation turned into a full-fledged business.
In the education sector alone, over 20 schools have purchased and adopted The Kiap Kiap to be used during their virtual sessions. These include the National Institute of Early Childhood Development (NIEC), the National Institute of Education (NIE) and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).
Besides the education sector, organisations from different sectors — such as art and craft organisations, life coaches, business workshops, and financial advisors — have also reached out and adopted The Kiap Kiap.
Despite the initial plan for the product being used in the education sector, Calvin and his team believes that there is potential to help other sectors as well.
“Through the process, we came to a realisation that this product could be versatile in aiding remote sharing in general,” said Calvin.
Despite being a new brand in the market, The Kiap Family is content with the success they have achieved so far. Mostly, they are satisfied with seeing how their product has helped ease the stress of teachers and students.
“Hearing positive feedback of how grateful they are towards our product and how it has positively made their lives easier during this pandemic was one of the greatest success and gift for us,” expressed Calvin.
Taking it one step at a time
Like most startups, Calvin and his team faced their own set of challenges. Being first-time entrepreneurs, the team had to start from scratch and learn the tricks and trade of pursuing a startup.
“Navigating and starting a business during the pandemic was challenging as there were many restrictions,” said Calvin.
The biggest challenge faced was when issues arose with the production and deliveries during the initial launch. However, the team was quick enough to improvise and managed to deliver all the products themselves.
Despite the challenges faced, the team is thankful for having understanding and supportive customers.
The feedbacks obtained during this process has been the source of motivation for Calvin and his team to further improve their products and business in order to serve their customers better.
Sharing future business plans, Calvin said that The Kiap Family is now in the midst of developing a second version of The Kiap Kiap.
“Kiap Family is just the first step towards our main goal of creating a fun filled hybrid learning experience for both students and teachers,” said Calvin.
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Featured Image Credit: The Kiap Family
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